Some want everything. Some give up everything. The "trouble merchants" of the world are those forever involved in the distributing and accepting of trouble - they hold close a very short list of what they would risk anything to protect. This is the story of five such people. [no distinct plot yet, but wow the characters are getting up to stuff anyway, so that has to be good]

Jaisey can't do anything right.

She wanders through the tangled undergrowth, feet sore, supplies dwindling, wishing someone else could just…



She hates herself for leaving.

Hates herself for not leaving sooner.

Hates herself because, whether or not she should have left, her town is depending on her, and she is entirely undependable.

And suddenly when she tries to pick up her foot, for the next useless, painful step, it won't come.

She looks down and sees that the moss beneath her trapped foot is glowing. Swirly, glowy moss patterns.

! There's a pattern of swirls coming from underneath her other foot too. Can she move that one?

Of course not. That would be too convenient.

Jaisey's breath catches in her throat; she tugs against the moss, but whatever is holding down her foot won't let it go.

The glow is spreading. At this rate, the entire body of moss will be lit before long.

Jaisey can't help but think of this as a bad thing.

She has never heard of anything like this. In her experience, plants are pretty passive life forms. Was this put here by a person?

She's crying now, as she struggles vainly. Trying not to cry and failing. The forest echoes with shrieks, whimpers, and other…random… noise…she's too concerned about the moss to pay attention to what she's sounding like now.

Once the entire moss is glowing, it starts to wrinkle and fold. Condensing around her. She has a most horrifying premonition – it will soon rise up around her on all sides and devour her?

What does being devoured by moss even look like?

Was she shouting "Help me, help me!"?

At any rate, she feels strong hands around her waist and is soon pulled forcefully from the glowing greenery, feet flying from her shoes.

People do this in the movies or in stories all the time, but seriously, shoes are usually on pretty tight. There is a bit of painful pulling before she comes free. She can hear her rescuer grunting. Because she is just that scared and bewildered, she even fights him, ups the volume of her outburst a bit.

"It's okay, it's okay, I'll get you out of there," Rescuer says, but she isn't in any kind of position to be processing information at the moment. She means to say, "thank you for stopping to help," but what actually ends up happening is, she pounds on his hands.

Once Jaisey comes free, she and Rescuer fall backwards; she is grabbed and pulled forcefully through the woods a ways, to a path she hadn't known was there.

"What's wrong with you?" Rescuer says sharply, holding her shoulders and looking her in the eyes, sternly.

He's on the tall side; has a worn-looking face, with a border of stubble along his chin. He looks to be anywhere from 30-40. His hair almost reaches his shoulders; if you could somehow combine the concept of "seaweed" with the concept of "shaggy," that would describe it perfectly. Jaisey has never seen him before in her life, but it is finally dawning on her that he has just saved her life? She should thank him, at least.

Jay answers his question by pulling away, wrapping her arms around a nearby tree, and bursting into tears.

He doesn't seem to know what to do with this, so he just stands there.

They stay like this until she is able to get herself under control a little; all she can say now is "I'm sorry!"

"You didn't do me any harm," Rescuer says shortly, awkwardly. "Just…don't go off the path from now on."

Jaisey has to sit down, she is crying so hard (she slides slowly down that tree). She didn't even know there was a path. She has been wandering around off the paths, trying to avoid other travelers. She doesn't even know where she is going, wouldn't know how to get help if she knew where to get it from.

"Are you… okay?" Rescuer asks.

Through her sobs, Jay is just able to tell him "no."

Jaisey learns later that this forest is one of the most dangerous places in the area. She left her town in a random direction – why did she have to go and make a BEELINE for RIGHT HERE? In any case, it is not a place that a self-proclaimed not okay person would probably last for very long in. Rescuer knows this, even if Jaisey doesn't.

"Girl, follow me," he says simply. "You need help. I'll take you somewhere safer."

She shouldn't trust him so blindly, she knows, as she gets slowly to her feet. Her parents wouldn't approve, for sure. But he sounds trustworthy…? That's not the right word. He doesn't seem trustworthy at all. His demeanor is shifty, like he's hiding something. Perhaps a better word is 'safe.' No. Not safe. Safest, at this point.

She follows him timidly to his horse; he gets on and nudges it into a walk, along the path. She follows, trust a forced necessity.

She's going "somewhere safer"? Perhaps she will find help there?

She doesn't know.

So she just follows.